A mother and her son killed by a polar bear in a remote village in western Alaska couldn’t see the attack coming because of poor visibility during the snowstorm, officials said.
Summer Myomick, 24, and her one-year-old son Clyde Ongtowasruk were attacked as they tried to walk 150 yards (137 meters) from a school to a clinic.
The pair had just walked outside the main entrance of the Welsh School in Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, when a polar bear disguised by a snowstorm appeared and attacked them.
It was the first fatal injury in Alaska in more than 30 years, with school officials herding people into the building when they spotted the bear.
The headteacher then ordered a blockade and closed the shutters so the children could not see the attack.
Several employees and community members risked their lives to leave the building and use shovels to scare the bear away.
The beatings stopped briefly when the animal turned on them and herded them back to the school, before principal Dawn Hendrickson slammed the door behind the charging bear.
“The polar bears were chasing them and trying to get in there,” said Susan Nezza, Bering Strait School District’s chief administrative officer.
“It was horrible. Things you never imagined you would go through.”
With no police in the remote village of only about 150 people, a distress call was issued to community members because the bear was still outside.
An unidentified person appeared with a gun and killed the bear as it went on to injure Ms Myomick and her son.
The mother didn’t know what to expect due to poor visibility, according to Alaska Police Department spokesman Austin McDaniel.
Wales’ whaling community is located on the westernmost tip of the North American continent, just 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Russia across the Bering Strait.
It can be reached by air and boat, including barges for household supplies.
While it’s unclear what triggered the attack, polar bears see humans as prey, said Jeff York, senior director of Polar Bear Conservation International.
The bodies of Ms. Myomick and her son were flown to Nome, where they were eventually transported to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage, while samples of the bear were taken for the state veterinarian.